Outside the human race, the primary function of taste is to acknowledge the nutritive value and/or danger of food an animal eats, depending on the concentration of the constituent substances. For humans, though, God gave us a bonus – to value the food to enjoy it.
Humans get to taste five “classes” of tastes (and yes, you probably noticed there is a newly contrived one!) We all know sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, but you perhaps never heard of a recently discovered one – “umami,” a “meaty” taste. Let’s discuss how this works and what is represented:
-First of all, taste is principally a quality, not a quantity. Salty foods are salty, sweet ones are sweet, etc. Yes, there are degrees of taste, especially due to the chemical nature of what is tasted. But the fact that one sweet taste is sweeter than another does not make either one cease to be sweet.
-Nutrients may or may not be tasted. Proteins and lipids, are often derived from carbohydrates. Proteins themselves cannot be tasted, though their constituents (namely, amino acids) can allow for tastes, e.g., sweet or sour. Yet, one such amino acid, glutamic acid, and a derivative of such (namely, MSG, a commonly-used seasoning), elicits the umami taste. Furthermore, reception of umami taste can be differentiated for different foods eliciting that sensation.
-Foods with multiple substances or quantities thereof can construct a unique taste to a certain food, say, an apple.
-“Mineral” nutrients, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and chlorine, can be consumed in the diet, but of course, in smaller quantities. Because they are nutritionally borne as salts, they can be tasted as such, to avoid excesses. There is also an apparent craving in deficient conditions, but the sensory component is still murky. And in everyday human society, potassium and calcium get much honor, but sodium is a four-letter word (due to its blood pressure increase factors)
-Vitamins generally bear no taste, since most food has all the vitamin content they need. Yet, it may be a different story for those who take vitamin supplements, LOL.
-All substances, except those that are bitter, typically dissolve in water.
-Different people have different numbers of taste buds
Moreover, with our power of reason and understanding of the science behind nutrition, we humans actually can understand nutrition much more thoroughly, especially with the help and advice of professionals like doctors and dieticians.
Finally, I leave you with this: while olfaction (detecting odors) is less important in humans than certain other animals, it is a key complement to taste. In fact, when odor and taste team up, the phenomenon is called flavor. If you have a cold, for example, food will have the same taste per se, but less flavor. So now you break the subtle confusion of “taste” and “flavor.” Humans have a modest, if substantial, potential for odor detection.
This is yet again a feature that makes us unique, namely, in the image and likeness of God. We are stewards of God’s world, both for our good and everything else in it.